Asthma warning as smoky haze blankets NSW

SMOKY skies have crept into Sydney with "hazardous" air warnings across the city as severe bushfires continue to rage across the state, sparking health concerns.

Sydney and the Illawarra's air quality is today worse than Jakarta and Beijing's, hitting "hazardous" levels as bushfire smoke increases.

The Department of Environment this morning lowered air quality ratings in the city, where the levels of pollutants has already hit 224 micrograms of particulates per cubic metre in Sydney's East and 340 in the Lower Hunter.

Early this morning the smell of smoke was obvious in Sydney's inner city and a orange haze had started to blanket the city.

Those with heart and respiratory conditions and asthma are now being urged to be wary as the particulates in the air can trigger breathing difficulties.

The warning comes as the state braces for a horror day of bushfires with authorities issuing "catastrophic" fire warnings.

 

Sydney’s skyline is obscured by smoke. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Sydney’s skyline is obscured by smoke. Picture: Jeremy Piper

 

NSW Health is reminding people with heart and respiratory conditions and asthma to stay inside, avoid exercise and carry medications with them.

The smoke contains fine particles that can cause breathing problems for vulnerable groups such as those with asthma, emphysema and angina.

Fourteen-year-old Rosy Cardis has been suffering from asthma for a number of years.

Her mother Sez Cardis says her asthma is particularly bad during bushfires, previously landing her in the intensive care unit.

 

Rosy Cardis, 14, suffers from severe asthma and bushfire smoke is a trigger for her so she is bracing for tomorrow’s forecast for haze. Picture: Supplied
Rosy Cardis, 14, suffers from severe asthma and bushfire smoke is a trigger for her so she is bracing for tomorrow’s forecast for haze. Picture: Supplied

The Year 9 student and her mum have been heeding the warnings to make sure she can breathe easy during Tuesday's smog.

"Rosy and I will go over her asthma plan again tonight. I will contact her school to remind them of her asthma situation and to follow Rosy's school asthma plan during these "catastrophic bushfires," Sez said.

Rosy will also be carrying her medications with her while keeping in touch with her mum throughout the day.

Were it not for exams, she would be at home with the windows shut.

Sydney’s skyline is blanketed by smoke on Monday night. Picture: Jeremy Piper
Sydney’s skyline is blanketed by smoke on Monday night. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Sez' advice to other parents is simple, try to manage asthma smoke triggers by staying home and being prepared.

"Go over your asthma plan. If you are a parent go over it with your child and go over asthma, "out and about" scenarios, role play; especially asking for help. If your child is shy make them an asthma communication card to have in their pocket.

"Do not be complacent, especially as a teenager. Asthma can quickly flare up and be life threatening."

Smoke from the Gulf Road fire in Torrington fills the early morning sky in Glen Innes. Photo: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Smoke from the Gulf Road fire in Torrington fills the early morning sky in Glen Innes. Photo: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Asthmatics aren't the only ones set to struggle through the hazy conditions. Other groups may also experience mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat.

Smoke engulfs the landscape around Torrington in Glen Innes on Tuesday. Photo: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images
Smoke engulfs the landscape around Torrington in Glen Innes on Tuesday. Photo: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

But there are ways to reduce the impact of the haze, such as staying in an airconditioned room.

"The best way to reduce exposure to smoke is to stay indoors with the doors and windows shut. Airconditioning can also help to filter particles from indoor air," NSW Health Director of Environmental Health Dr Richard Broome said.

Andrew Mackenzie suffering from smoke inhalation. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty
Andrew Mackenzie suffering from smoke inhalation. Picture: Brook Mitchell/Getty

CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman says anyone with asthma should listen for warning signs and carry their reliever with them at all times.

"The worst thing people can do is to dismiss the signs because they can escalate very quickly. People know their own symptoms best but watch out for breathlessness, wheezing, tightness of chest."

"If people are feeling unwell, I would encourage them to see a GP or if they can't then to go to a pharmacy."

Earlier this month, Sydney's air quality reached an all time low, hitting "hazardous" levels as bushfires tore through the state.

Extreme weather events such as billowing smoke correlates with an increase in presentations for asthma attacks and severe respiratory problems at hospital, Ms Goldman says.

As weather patterns become more unpredictable, asthmatics need to take extra care of their health, she says.

"There's a bit of a sense of complacency around asthma. I would encourage people who find their triggers to be environmental to be vigilant and take their meds daily."



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